Last week the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released its list of the 2011 models that earned top marks in its safety tests.
In all, the IIHS named 66 vehicles Top Safety Picks, including 40 cars, 25 SUVs and a minivan. That number is up considerably from last year's list, which was smaller than usual because of tougher IIHS test criteria, including a more stringent standard for crashworthiness in a rollover:
At the beginning of the 2010 model year, only 27 vehicles qualified for the award, but the number grew to 58 as auto manufacturers reworked existing designs and introduced new models. Now another 10 vehicles join the winners' list for 2011. Two discontinued models drop off.
"In just a year, automakers have more than doubled the number of vehicles that meet the criteria for Top Safety Pick," says Adrian Lund, the Institute's president. "That gives consumers shopping for a safer new car or SUV -- from economy to luxury models -- plenty of choices to consider in most dealer showrooms. In fact, every major automaker has at least one winning model this year."
The two automakers with the most qualifying models were Volkswagen and Hyundai, each of whom had nine Top Safety Picks.
But they were far from the only standouts. In fact, the number of qualifying models more than doubling between the 2010 and 2011 model year is a testament to the vibrancy of the global automotive industry, which has shown a remarkable capacity to adapt to some really difficult challenges within one or two model years on a pretty consistent basis.
That's in part, why I think high fuel economy standards are such a no-brainer -- the expertise and ingenuity within the industry are such that even the toughest mileage standards have little chance of getting between auto companies and their profits, thanks to the efforts of thousands of brilliant automotive engineers worldwide.
Another thing that stands out is the number of really affordable cars that got the nod. It wasn't so long ago that if you wanted a car that was really safe, you'd need to shop in the luxury car class. Now, entry-level cars like the Ford Fiesta and the Chevrolet Cruze are among the safest sold.
Here's the full list of winners, in case you're car shopping right now:
BMW 5 series (except four-wheel drive and V-8)
Cadillac CTS sedan
Infiniti M37/M56 (except M56x four-wheel drive)
Mercedes E class coupe
Mercedes E class sedan
Audi A4 sedan
Chrysler 200 4-door
Mercedes C class
Volkswagen Jetta sedan
Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen
Honda Civic, four-door models (except Si) with optional electronic stability control
Kia Forte sedan
Mitsubishi Lancer sedan (except four-wheel drive)
Subaru Impreza sedan and hatchback (except WRX)
Volkswagen Golf, four-door
Volkswagen GTI, four-door
Ford Fiesta sedan and hatchback built after July 2010
Hyundai Santa Fe
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Kia Sorento built after March 2010
Jeep Patriot with optional side torso air bags